The New England Patriots’ offensive line was one of the best in the NFL last season, with advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus ranking it as the number two unit in the league from the start of the regular season through the playoffs: position coach Dante Scarnecchia’s men finished with a pass blocking grade of 82.1 (sixth best) and a run blocking grade of 72.1 (second best).
The group’s actual performances confirm this, especially when looking at its playoff run. En route to the Patriots’ victory in Super Bowl 53, it surrendered just one sack while also paving the way for 161.7 rushing yards per contest. In short: New England’s blockers up front were terrific when the stakes were highest, which allowed them to manifest themselves as one of the best offensive lines in the business.
Will 2019 be more of the same? PFF does not seem convinced, ranking the Patriots’ line as ‘only’ the sixth best in football heading into the new season:
For an organization that values consistency, the offensive line does not fall short of expectations. Shaq Mason found himself on PFF’s top 50 players heading into 2019 following a season where he earned career-high marks in a plethora of metrics including overall grade (85.0). We also ranked the Patriots’ duo as of Mason and Joe Thuney as the most-talented offensive guard tandem in the NFL. The Dante Scarnecchia-led unit will float among the top-ten offensive lines once again.
The Patriots’ starting lineup for the 2019 campaign features only one true question mark, which is likely the reason that PFF sees the offensive line taking a slight step back when compared to last year: while left guard Joe Thuney, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon are all established linemen and among the best in the business at their respective positions, the left tackle spot will be one to watch.
Isaiah Wynn, a first-round draft pick last year that spent virtually all of his rookie season on injured reserve with a torn Achilles, will be asked to fill the shoes previously worn by Trent Brown. The free agency departure — a trade acquisition by New England last offseason — was very solid as a pass protector in 2018 and a bit more inconsistent when it comes to run blocking. Overall, PFF had him ranked as the 17th best left tackle in football.
Wynn, for comparison, entered the NFL as one of the draft’s best pass blockers and a player also having frequent success in run blocking. If the second-year man can build on these attributes with the help of the aforementioned Scarnecchia and at least somewhat adequately replace Brown in the starting lineup, New England should again field a top-five offensive line this season.
Could the unit decline a bit, as PFF projects? It certainly seems possible, especially early in the year and Wynn getting his feet wet as a starter. By the time the playoffs roll around again, however, it would not be surprising if the Patriots’ offensive line is back at the same levels it was at in late 2018 — which would be bad news for the rest of the league trying to dethrone the world champs.